'Atarot, Qalandiya, Tue 16.2.10, Morning
6.25 Atarot checkpoint: Checkpoint relatively free and two soldiers let the small stream of traffic pass through quickly. There is almost no traffic to Atarot industrial area.
6:30 Qalandiya checkpoint: Very long, quiet queues. Those waiting in the middle arrived a quarter of an hour ago. According to our calculations, they'll get out within half an hour. The gates open frequently, approximately every five minutes. Many are entering, but there is little pressure since the queues in the sleeves are progressing quickly. There's only one male solider and maybe a female soldier in the inner fortified cell. During the hour of greatest pressure, we didn't see anyone of authority, whether army or police officer, throughout the waiting and checking area. It should be noted that frequent opening of the gates reduces pressure and allows the queue to pass through quickly. However, operation of this system depends on the constable on duty.
And what's the problem?
Rahamim Gate, "the Humanitarian Gate" the gate for women, children, the sick and the elderly, doctors and teachers - is closed.
Most of the pupils are waiting in the innermost line and the gate opens very frequently, allowing 20-40 through. However, the iron cage doesn't enable a mother with a baby in her arms to stand in line, not to speak of young girls squashed between shoving adults, invalids, the elderly, mothers with strollers. Nothing is clear to anyone, and so pupils, teachers and mothers with babies also wait by the closed gate, wasting time. When the situation becomes clearer, there is a stampede to the nearest cage and desperate high school students mercilessly crush small children. The ones waiting further back see the queue getting even longer. Then there's a chance the gate will open and some of them run there and wait expectantly, only to run back, disheartened, after a few minutes. "When will we get to work?" one teacher asks us.
Telephones - from the moment of our arrival we called the Humanitarian Centre, which promised to clarify and settle the matter and within the hour informed us that the gate
was about to open any minute now. We called the crossing point officer, who promised to check and settle the matter, and it should be noted that he afterwards called back and was surprised to hear that the gate hadn't opened. It's possible that everyone was told the gate would open but nothing changed.
The authorities - the constable and his aides, a junior male and female officer and two body guards, appeared at 07:20. At the busiest and most important hour of the morning none of them were there, either for assistance or for directing the flow; no one intended to open the women's gate and there's no doubt the lies we were given were an attempt to shut us up for a while until after breakfast.
For the record, the gate did open twice - for a woman with a baby stroller and for 2 people who managed to persuade the junior officer (who had no authority, of course) to persuade the constable to open the gate - all the rest ran back and forwards between hope and despair.
In the meantime, in the glass cage, there is a relaxed and jolly conversation going on
with all those in uniform trying to avoid meeting our looks.
At 07:45 the waiting room emptied completely and we headed for the vehicle checkpoint.
A completely new discovery - the watch tower (the tower that protects the guards) is surrounded entirely by a very high metal fence, intended to protect the tower itself. And who'll guard the fence? We'll continue monitoring.
The central roundabout was entirely clear of junk and huts which had been piled on it and it now allegedly serves as a regular roundabout, entered from:
the south: cars arriving from Jerusalem and continuing from the south to the east or north.
the east: cars arriving from Ar-Ram and from the Palestinian checkpoint parking lot and continuing north or south.
the north - cars coming from Ramallah and continuing south or east.
BUT - On the other roundabouts, the traffic moves in one direction only, but here the cars move in 2 opposite directions and in the same lanes, so someone who comes from Ramallah and turns east can collide with another driver from the east turning toward Ramallah or south, to the vehicle checkpoint.